Graphic Novel Review: Secret Wars

Secret Wars

Secret Wars - Credit: Archant

The Marvel Universe has ended... this is what happens next.

(Panini Books)

The secret cabal of superheroes known as the Illuminati, whose ranks include the likes of Reed Richards, Hank McCoy, Namor, Tony Stark and Stephen Strange, have spent the best part of a year waging a covert battle to prevent a series of devastating interdimensional incursions by parallel Earths.

Having gone to extreme measures to ensure the survival of “Marvel Earth”, the version of the planet from the universe designated 616, they eventually reached a point whereby just two realities survived out of the entire multiverse, all others having being whittled away through other incursions.

The final war of worlds is with the Earth from the so-called “Ultimate universe”, where Miles Morales inherited the title of Spider-Man, Captain America was assassinated after becoming President, and mutants were the result of mankind’s genetic manipulation rather than an evolutionary fast-track. In short, this is the Earth which featured in the Ultimate Comics range of titles which Marvel has been publishing since 2000.

Spoiler alert: nobody wins, and virtually everybody dies.

Yep, reality itself is ripped asunder in the conflict, with just a handful of survivors escaping the cataclysm in ships devised by Reed Richards, all else being consumed by the void that exists at the end of everything…

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Yet somehow, life springs again from the darkness, with the creation of Battleworld, a patchwork planet which fuses together various realities ranging from the Age of Apocalypse and the world ruled by the House of M to the Wild West of 1872 and the demonic realm of Inferno…

Superficially, this is a story about the survivors of the old reality discovering the secrets behind Battleworld and then lighting the blue touch-paper on a reborn, slightly-different Marvel Universe. But go beyond that and it’s a narrative about the creative process of world-building and the consequences of godhood, it tells what might be considered the last Fantastic Four story, and it serves as a fitting finale to writer Jonathan Hickman’s epic, multi-title run on the Avengers and FF.

It’s also a very intimate affair, as at its very heart Secret Wars focuses on the long-running rivalry between Victor Von Doom and Reed Richards, and what ultimately sets these two geniuses apart, a clash which has its roots in the earliest days of Marvel Comics and has epitomised much of the line’s subsequent history.

Artist Esad Ribic proves to be an outstanding choice when it comes to providing the visuals for this saga, fitting perfectly with the almost fairy tale aspect of Hickman’s script.

Exactly how the Marvel Universe has changed remains to be fully established, with many of the titles in the relaunched line jumping ahead by eight months to allow the backstory of the new reality to be fleshed out over time, but with a second Civil War looming on the horizon it seems as though things will be far from quiet in the meantime…